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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Hotel insider: Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, Chiang Rai, Thailand

A tranquil resort offering striking views of three countries

Sala Mae Nam is the resort's all-day dining restaurant and serves authentic Thai cuisine. Anantara
Sala Mae Nam is the resort's all-day dining restaurant and serves authentic Thai cuisine. Anantara

The welcome

Having travelled to Thailand by boat from Laos, I am met at the port by a hotel representative and driven the 10 minutes to the resort. Upon arrival, the first thing I notice is the traditional courtyard and tranquil pool that leads into the impressive lobby where the desk staff are quick to get us checked in. I'm then given a quick familiarisation tour and led to the room at the top of a steep incline.

The neighbourhood

A three country view deluxe room offers just that, views of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Anantara
A three country view deluxe room offers just that, views of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Anantara

The beauty of this 160-acre property is that it offers guests incredible views of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos – the Golden Triangle – as well as the Mekong River. Perched on a ridge amid jungle surrounds, the 63-room resort is an hour’s drive from Chiang Rai International Airport and a four-hour drive from Chiang Mai, northern Thailand’s largest city. While there isn’t much need to leave the resort, there are market stalls just a few minutes drive from the hotel.

The room

A deluxe three country view room. Anantara
A deluxe three country view room. Anantara

The three room categories – deluxe three-country view rooms, three-country view suites, and three-country view family suites – are split into two wings on either side of the main building (although one side is undergoing renovation when I stay). The deluxe room I’m in is quite the walk from the lobby, all uphill, and has its own private balcony, is kitted out with teak flooring and hill tribe furnishings, and has a large statement terrazzo soaking tub with a sliding partition that opens it up to the rest of the room. I find the bathroom sliding door too heavy to shift at times, but the Anantara-branded products are appreciated, as are the super-comfy beds.

The service

The lobby of the hotel is Thai inspired. Anantara 
The lobby of the hotel is Thai inspired. Anantara

Mostly on point. Given that it’s low season when I visit, I’m surprised by the amount of time it takes to get a salad order at one of the casual dining outlets when there is only one other table occupied. I’m heading to the makeshift spa and only have limited time to eat, but I’m told it will take at least half an hour, which forces me to push the treatment back to allow me enough time. That being said, staff are friendly and knowledgeable, special mention goes to Nissa Mututanot, the elephant veterinarian who goes out of her way to make my experience with her a personal one.

The scene

The Elephant Bar is the ideal spot for a pre-dinner drink and snacks. Anantara
The Elephant Bar is the ideal spot for a pre-dinner drink and snacks. Anantara

Although I’m not visiting at the most picturesque time of year, the jungle surrounds are a nice change from the desert environment I’m used to. The resort is quiet throughout the day, with breakfast and dinner times the occasions I see at most a handful of other guests. There’s not much of a vibe to speak of, but it is ­certainly relaxing.

The food

Baan Dhalia is a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant, providing for an alternative dining experience. Anantara
Baan Dhalia is a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant, providing for an alternative dining experience. Anantara

Sala Mae Nam is the Thai restaurant that serves all day. Lunch and dinner are authentic, while ­breakfast has a more international flavour. The morning spread includes a live cooking station for hot dishes such as stir-fries, pancakes and egg dishes, and there are small stations where you can choose from hash browns, croissants and pastries, cold meats and cheese, and cereals. Lunch and dinner dishes start from 181 Thai baht (Dh20). Just next door is the resort’s signature Italian eatery, Baan Dhalia. Here you’ll find ­yourself in Tuscan surrounds with fresh pastas and pizzas on offer on its menu, starting from about 385 baht (Dh43). The Elephant Bar is the casual outdoor spot ideal for pre­dinner refreshments and snacks.

Loved

The Walking with Giants elephant experience (6,500 baht [Dh726]). I was lucky enough to get to meet the baby of the family – so cute.

Hated

That I couldn’t experience the hotel’s permanent spa, as it has been moved to one of the rooms while the usual space is undergoing renovations. I didn’t enjoy the hilly walk to the room either.

The verdict

The resort sits atop a ridge overlooking the Mekong River. Anantara
The resort sits atop a ridge overlooking the Mekong River. Anantara

Elephant lovers will be in their element here as will those who enjoy being surrounded by nature and like to indulge in a bit of luxury.

The bottom line

Rooms at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort start from 34,141 baht (Dh3,826) a night, including breakfast, taxes and Wi-Fi.

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